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Working with Authority

We have created this document as an overview and summary of the dynamics around Power and Authority to contribute to more understanding of how these concepts play in and with us. During the certification process both the candidate and the assessor are affected by this dynamic again and again.


There is a risk that both fall back into  roles fueled by power over /under without even noticing it; falling into fear based reactions that we carry from upbringing, culture and not the least our educational system. 

It can  manifest in a way that both the assessor and the candidate fall into power over OR power under.


Example of such an exchange might be a request to a candidate to create their own learning plan for the certification process based on their learning needs vs. telling the candidate what they have to do as next steps.


Feedback is an inseparable part of the process of certification and not only feedback for the candidate. Important part of it is to all of us to stay open to  two way  feedback between assessor and candidate. In this way our aim is to create a space to catch any moments of falling  back into the old paradigm. Bringing awareness in order to  re-establish the ‘power with’  paradigm.

A dynamic that can get set up in feedback is one where someone is sharing because they know better and want to ‘teach’. 

AND  we want to learn to value respect for authority and want to learn from and with one another. (The Key Differentiation that explores this is Rebelling and Submitting to Power vs Respect for Authority.)

The assessor might  share his/her own vulnerability, the loneliness experienced when having this role and being identified with this role.


In his teachings and writings Marshall Rosenberg  covers these concepts, and they are in fact the basis for his mission to contribute to Social Change. Via the practice of NVC, he wanted us to be aware of ‘how unaware’ we all are when it comes to how we relate to the systems around us. 

To bring awareness to how these systems we have set up 

How they continue to feed thinking that leads to violence. For example doing something because ‘that is the way we have always done it here.’


And how our language contributes to this……………


Domination systems are old and woven throughout our lives with many layers  influencing how we have built and continue to build and organize. Examples are church, royalty, military, most businesses, education, family, in these institutions the values are transferred from generation to generation.

It is important to not start to see systems through the lens of an enemy image - be aware!


Here are some quotes from Marshall Rosenberg that point this out:


-When people live inside domination system, they learn domination thinking

-We are educated to forget our natural way of being

-We have been educated to play the game of who is right

-We have been educated by the culture to enjoy violence

-We have been educated in a way that turns people into enemies

-The most dangerous of all behaviors may consist of doing things because we are supposed to.

-Can you imagine a more diabolical (devilish) concept than punishment as a way to educate people

- One of the most dangerous words there is, is “deserve”


MBR was very clearly pointing out what our school systems were based on - and aiming at - as he talked about the purpose of the school system in a Jackal Society:


“Functions of schools in a Jackal Society”


-   Maintain a caste system, but hidden

-   Teach people to be docile to authority = do as you are told = quiet class, = under control

-   Teach pupils to work for extrinsic rewards

-   What is worth learning is already decided.

-   Authority knows what is right

-   “Wrong” is bad

-   Learning is scary”


One could say we are “marinated” in this way of thinking. With these beliefs we enter the certification process, maybe with an attitude to obey or an attitude to protest.


In various ways we get excited about NVC and a longing to function according to its principles is awakened. Some of us get so taken that we want to become CTs. That’s why it is so crucial to come back to our intentions of sharing NVC.

The model, the language he created is only a vehicle, a raft, a handrail (Symbols that Marshall Rosenberg used) to reflect the values.

Ideas about how to explore power and authority are reflected in the CPP and  we aim to work with them through the process and within the group at the final assessment. 

Many of the Key diffs in NVC reflect the Power over/under concepts.

Some of the most clear examples are:

- Protective - punitive use of force

- Power with - power over

- Choice – submission/rebellion

- Request – demand

- Interdependent – dependent/independent

As assessors we experience more and more clarity about how much these dynamics are affecting us. We dialogue with  our candidates that we are aware of the dynamic AND we try to stay alert around it moment by moment, aware there is always more to uncover. We ask for feedback on this from candidates and colleagues.

 We meet NVC with all of this as a baggage. 

Assessors' dilemma: We have taken on a role and are committed to CNVC to our outer ability to protect the integrity of NVC such as Marshall Rosenberg once shared it with us. It is a very delicate task!! We are working with our own shortcomings and unawareness at the same time as we are embracing the same issues in our candidates.


How to create some reassurance that getting rid of old paradigm does not create lack of structure, predictability, agreements and our need are not met (example: candidates surprised that I ask them not to use someone's exercises without asking that person in the first place- "NVC means I can do whatever I want")? We aim at working with mutual respect for our needs and in openness alongside each other within the context of a structure.


Proposals of exercises/ journal entries


When you want to work on specific situation of power over/under. (Based on the work of Wes Taylor)

Think of a time when you conducted POWER OVER in relationship to someone else.

  1. Recall the situation and what you “did”

  2. What needs were you trying to meet?

  3. How did the other person react?

  4. What was the final result of this situation?

  5. Was the issue resolved?

  6. How did you feel at that time?

  7. How do you feel now when you think back upon this situation?


 Now think about another time when someone else conducted POWER OVER you.

  1. What did the other person do?

  2. What needs was the other person trying to meet?

  3.  How did you feel when this happened?

  4.  What needs of yours were not met?

  5.  How do you feel now when you think back upon this situation?


When you want to explore your learning edges, exercise from Ania Mills extended by Ola Gołaszewska and Ian Peatey:


  1. In what areas of your life do you currently use your power or authority in a way that does not satisfy you but you are not able to find a better strategy?

  2. What of your needs are unmet by making this choice?

  3. What of your needs are met by making this choice?

  4. Is there anything you want to ask yourself to meet more of your needs?

When you HAVE experienced Power With:

  1. In what areas of your life do you experience this?

  2. What do you do to contribute to this experience?

  3. What becomes possible when you experience this? For you? For the other? 

  4. How can you apply this to your role as assessor?


Document created by Towe Windstrad, Ania Mills, Ola Gołaszewska in 2023

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